As a long term resident of Helsinki, I sometimes lose sight of that fact that we can find nature in close proximity, no matter which direction we travel. We take it for granted that Central Park with it’s abundance of paths is there for anyone to walk through. We take it for granted that the archipelago and gently lapping waterways keep our climate and weather patterns ‘interesting‘ all year round. We take it for granted that we have a World Heritage site at our front door (Suomenlinna) and we take it for granted that the trip to Nuuksio National Park is less than what many people travel as part of their daily commute (here and elsewhere!).
Today I joined fellow guide and biologist Mikhail Daneliya for a short trip to Nuuksio. Mikhail is the man behind BioGeo-Traveller and a zoologist by profession. He got in touch a few weeks ago and after a flurry of emails we met today for the first time.
He picked the very central Aleksis Kivi monument to meet, and as I was early I spent those first few minutes watching the passing crowd seeing if I could pick him out. Of course, the minute I turned in the other direction he appeared! We headed into Helsinki’s main railway station to shelter from an extremely bitter wind whilst we waited for our train to Espoo. From the train we caught the #85 bus to Nuuksionpää and jumped off at Haukkalampi stop. A brisk walk to the bottom of the hill and the scenery changed radically.
From spruce forest to birch trees in the space of minutes and where I learned my first new fact. Sorry, I’m not going to share it – you might already know this fun fact and thus not be at all impressed! Our pace was easy going as we followed the well constructed paths, complete with stairs that seemed to go on and on! Right now I have to congratulate the Park Administration for installing path markers that work all year round! I’ve lost count of the number of paths that I’ve walked that are easy to follow in summer, as white paint on rocks really does stand out. These same paths just disappear with the first snowfall, and remain undiscovered until the following spring.
Mikhail tailors his walks depending on the ability of his guests, so the walk I did today, up hill and down with a few lakes along the way, might not be the same one you do. If you are like me, reasonably fit then possibly you might see this:
or you might see this:
Along the way there were plenty of signs that autumn was drawing to an end. Rotten mushrooms, leafless branches and the overwhelming sound of silence. This time of year the majority of birds have migrated away, although we did hear a woodpecker quite high above us. Also there was a distinct lack of traffic on the paths: one pram, one dog walking family and a few walking couples meant that we really felt like we had the park to ourselves! This also meant that there was no queue to use the grill. The only ‘downside': we had to get the fire going ourselves… not such a big deal.
Mikhail got a very tidy fire going in no time at all.
Unbeknownst to me … I managed to buy sausage of the year! I’ve just found out while scooting around the world wide interwebs looking for a link back to the sausage factory. Here’s a link back to the announcement (sorry it’s only in Finnish). Great flavour and good texture, definitely a winner in my book!
We grilled some lamb sausages from the Helsingin Makkaratehdas (Helsinki Sausage Factory) and washed them down with green tea. Here’s a little cooking tip if you are grilling sausages on an open fire. Wait for the flames to die down and the wood to turn to glowing coals before you put your sausages on to grill. Otherwise your sausages will end up with burnt outsides and cold insides.
Then it was time to return to the ‘big smoke’! We looped back to the entrance and followed the road to the bus stop. The return journey with bus and train was just over an hour and meant that I arrived back in the centre 5 hours after our initial meeting.
It’s easy if you’d like to get in touch with Mikhail directly for your own natural adventure: BioGeo Traveller on the internet or drop him a line at mikhail.daneliya (@) taxonomicum.com or ring him on +358 44 928 0343. Don’t forget about Facebook and Twitter!